By Richard Mann, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro plans to expand the social welfare program created by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Created by the Workers’ Party in 2003, the Bolsa Família (Family Fund) has been extremely successful in courting votes from poor Brazilians – and no region is poorer than the Northeast, where at least 12 percent of the population depends on the program. In the Southeast, only 4 percent of families are getting the Bolsa Família.
The more than 14 million recipients of the Bolsa will get a 13th-month payment, Bolsonaro said at a ceremony celebrating his first 100 days in office.
The expansion of the program, which Bolsonaro promised during last year’s election campaign, will cost R$ 2.58 billion (US$ 680 million).
In his recent book The Brazilian Presidential Elections, political scientist Alberto Carlos Almeida compares electoral results between 2006 and 2014 with social economic factors. And, in areas where the rate of families receiving the benefit is high, votes swing to the party that created it.
The monthly payments to the country’s poorest, introduced by former leftist president Lula at the beginning of his first term in 2003, average R$ 186 and are contingent on the family sending their children to school.
Bolsonaro had said in 2017, when he was still a congressman, that he would not expand the program. “I’m not going to use demagoguery to get votes,” he said.